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POWERFUL NOTIONS
… the changes are so indefinitely numerous and subtle
that the entire organism may be called a sounding-board,
which every change of consciousness, however slight, may
reverberate. The various permutations and combinations
of which these organic activities are susceptible make it
abstractly impossible that no shade of emotion, however
slight, should be without a bodily reverberation as unique,
when taken in its totality, as in the mental mood itself.
The immense number of parts modified in each emotion is
what makes it so difficult for us to reproduce in cold blood
the total and integral expression of any one of them. We
may catch the trick with the voluntary muscles, but fail
with the skin, glands, heart, and other viscera. Just as an
artificially imitated sneeze lacks something of the reality,
so the attempt to imitate an emotion in the absence of its
normal instigating cause is apt to be rather ‘hollow’.
(James 1899)
Clearly William James didn’t think you can get away with fooling
people on a regular basis. At best trying to communicate some-
thing different from what you feel works in the short term. But it
becomes an increasingly consuming activity over time. Eventually
people pick up on it and doubt your sincerity.
The best thing you can do is understand how you feel about
something and why you feel that way. While you’ll probably
have a tough time lying about how you feel, you might be able
to rethink your attitude. You’ll get much further by doing that.
MANAGING YOUR ATTITUDE
William James wrote a lot about emotion and attitude. On
managing attitude he made the following observation: ‘Human
beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can
change the outer aspects of their lives.’ (James 1899)
High achievers know this and they use it to their advantage. They
may not be able to change reality. And they may not be able to hide
how they feel. But they can change their perspective and their
focus. They can thereby change how they feel, and consequently
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MASTER THE MOMENT
how they react. Managing your attitude not only leads to higher
levels of productivity, but what’s more important, it leads to higher
levels of wellbeing.
Randy Rose, who was Chief Operating Officer at Energizer
Holdings before becoming CEO of Enzymatic Therapy, told me:
‘Sure, I manage my attitude. For example, I do this when a huge
challenge is dropped upon me. I cannot necessarily take some-
thing from a sorry state today and make it great, but I can make
it a little better today, still better tomorrow, and so on. And I can
certainly change my attitude, so that instead of seeing something
as a catastrophe, I see it as something I can improve little by
little. In other words, instead of seeing this huge insurmountable
problem before me, I rethink my attitude to view it as a series of
smaller problems that I can solve one at a time. I find that this
overrides any panic sensation that might be my initial reaction.’
Randy went on to say: ‘I encourage people in my organization to
try to view things differently. Put things in a positive light – not
by fooling yourself about the facts, but changing your perspec-
tive. For example, when something seems unpleasant in the
short term, think about how it fits into a larger context. Another
example is: when you are faced with a problem for which you
have no immediate solution, remind yourself that just because
you don’t know the answer today, [it] doesn’t mean you won’t
know it tomorrow. Remind yourself that in the past you have
been able to solve similar problems even if the solution didn’t
come to you right away.’
David Novak is CEO of Yum! Brands. Because his family moved
around constantly as he was growing up, he had to get good at
making new friends and dealing with new situations.
He reasons that most of our fears are about things that never come
to pass. The remainder of our fears are about things that turn out
to be quite different from what we anticipate. You can’t do away
with your fears, but you can learn to keep them in check. (Novak
and Boswell 2007)
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